Cover-to-Cover is a column where I’ll choose my favorite cover from a particular series. This time it’s one of my favorite recent series: Dengeki Daisy! Going into this, I knew choosing which cover I like most for Dengeki Daisy was going to be difficult because I love the series’ art. Kurosaki and Teru’s character designs are sharp and attractive, and even the manga’s black and white artwork is effectively cute yet sensual. Most importantly, with the exception of volume eight’s cover, every cover of the nine volumes Viz has released so far has featured the couple on it. This is especially appealing to me because I love covers with the main couple on them. I’ve already expressed my love for this couple before, so this made my decision even tougher. There were a few covers that stood out to me right away, especially volumes seven, three, six, and two. When I first saw the cover of volume seven, I immediately loved it. I loved that Kurosaki was kissing Teru’s hand, and both of them are drawn really well. However, the reason I didn’t choose this cover was because Teru is crying. Even though I like the cover on it’s own, I prefer to see images of my favorite characters looking happy together. The cover of volume three is cute because Teru is staring up at Kurosaki, who is holding her chin in his hand. I’m not as in love with the colors of this cover, however, not to mention I’m not crazy about the way Teru’s hair is drawn. Thus, even though I like both of these images they simply can’t hold up to the high standards of some of the series’ other covers.
So it comes down to volumes two and six. Unlike my other Cover-to-Cover choices, this isn’t a case of which one is better, because both of them really capture the essence of both the characters and the series. Volume two’s cover has Teru with an adorable expression on her face, and I love that it seems as though she just kind of naturally fell into Kurosaki’s arms. Volume six has Teru embracing Kurosaki from behind as he plays with her hair. Even though all of the covers feature daisies on them (for obvious reasons), the daisies suit this cover particularly well – it almost feels as though Kurosaki and Teru are sitting in a grassy field in a park somewhere. I love that Kurosaki is playing with her hair, and their expressions are just so loving I can’t help but smile. Most importantly, Teru and Kurosaki’s pose is pretty unique as a cover image, and I feel like they look like equals on this cover (which is interesting to note considering the fact that Kurosaki is supposed to be Teru’s protector, not to mention since he’s several years older than her). So as much as I love the cover of volume two, I’m gonna have to pick volume six’s cover image as my favorite cover for Dengeki Daisy. Just don’t tell volume two.
Love triangles tend to be very hit or miss among fans. While some fans consider love triangles to be a fun way to heighten drama, other people see love triangles as predictably clichéd. Many fans, including myself, often find themselves on both sides of the argument: when a love triangle is done right it can captivate the audience, yet oftentimes it is obvious who is going to end up with each other right from the beginning. Simpleek wrote a post discussing the appeal of love triangles in manga, and I’ve written before about the love triangles in anime and manga that most stand out to me. And while I’ve come to accept the presence of love triangles, there is one type of triangle I absloutely cannot stand: when a character is introduced as a love rival after the main couple has already gotten together. This type of triangle pops up because once the main couple has finally confessed their love to one another and has gotten together, the author faces a dilemma. You can almost hear the author saying ‘Oh noes, I’m running out of plot! What’ll I do?!…Wait…I can create a new love interest! This way, the couple can break up over some stupid misunderstanding and the heroine can sulk around and find comfort in the arms of her rival. That’ll buy me a few chapters!’ There are multiple reasons I can’t stand this cliché. First of all, it is extremely common. The first series that comes to mind is Love*Com, which introduces Mimi right after Risa and Otani became an official couple in volume eight. Mimi can’t stand that Otani has fallen for someone taller than him because she also is taller than him and didn’t think she had a chance. Even though Mimi is a somewhat sympathetic character and I really like Love*Com, I didn’t feel as though her introduction into the story was necessary. Another example of a rival love interest showing up after the main couple had already gotten together occurs in The Devil Does Exist. The ‘love triangle’ in this series made no sense at all because Rumi’s reasons for liking Takeru were unclear, and more importantly she wasn’t even his type, so she wasn’t even a threat to Kayano and her relationship with Takeru. Rival love interests often pop up in Absolute Boyfriend, and they usually have ulterior motives.After Riiko and her robot boyfriend Night announce themselves as a couple at school, Mika tries to seduce Night because she’s only interested in other women’s guys. Later, a rival robot appears to try and win Riiko’s heart so he can replace Night. Overall, I find it to be much too contrived that a love rival will always show up just as the main characters have happily gotten together.
This cliché is also stupid because we know that the rival has no chance and the main couple will stay (or get back) together, which is most obviously shown in Marmalade Boy. When Kei Tsuchiya is introduced, he immediately interferes in Miki and Yuu’s relationship to win Miki’s heart. The couple fight and break up thanks to Kei’s presence, yet when Kei tries to make his move on Miki she’s not interested in him at all. It doesn’t take long for Miki and Yuu make up, and everything returns to normal. What bothers me most is that this plot was played for angst even though it was useless and trite. All I could think when I was watching the series was ‘Uh, hello, it’s called ‘Marmalade Boy!’ She’s obviously gonna end up with the ‘marmalade boy!’ So even though I love Marmalade Boy, I’m not a huge fan of this particular storythread and I wished the author would have just skipped it.
However, even though I generally can’t stand the late introduction of shallow love interests who are often uninteresting and barely fleshed-out, it can be done right. When Keita Kamogari shows up in volume eight of DMP’s release of Itazura na Kiss, he is training to become a nurse alongside Kotoko. Kotoko has trouble finding her footing with the medical field (which causes Keita a lot of pain, since he is the person she practices giving needles to), and when her genius doctor-in-training husband Naoki coldly tells her there’s no way she can be a nurse, Keita is bothered by how unsupportive he is. When all three go to a party with the other medical students, Keita calls Naoki out on spending his time socializing instead of with Kotoko, and yells at him for “not being to fond of his wife.” Naoki soon realizes that Keita is in love with Kotoko, and when he and Kotoko get into an argument, Keita confesses his feelings to her. Naoki soon begins ignoring Kotoko, and when he declines after she asks him to celebrate their second wedding anniversary, Kotoko finally snaps. She begins throwing books at him and saying their marriage doesn’t feel like a real one, and she tells him she doesn’t feel like he ever loved her. Kotoko decides to spend the night at a friend’s house, and the next day when Keita finds out about their fight he asks if she wants to move in with him because Naoki acts as though he doesn’t love or need her. Naoki rushes in to tell Kotoko that she’s completely wrong – he was jealous of Keita, which was a first for him and he didn’t know how to react. He tells Kotoko that he needs her more than anyone and he can only be himself around her, and the two make up. While the reasons behind Keita’s feelings for Kotoko are a bit underdeveloped, unlike so many other rival love interests Keita actually serves a purpose beyond creating unnecessary drama. Kotoko admits that deep down she was always insecure about why Naoki loved her, and she always felt she loved him more than he loves her.
Keita may not be fully fleshed out as a character, but he works very effectively as a plot device. When Naoki and Kotoko first got married in volume six of the manga, I had problems with them getting together because for so long, Naoki denied his feelings for Kotoko. The two were married only two weeks after he proposed to her, and I still felt that their relationship was too imbalanced. Bringing Keita into the mix helped not only air out these problems, but also brought them to a resolution. The stakes of having a rival love interest in Itazura na Kiss are also higher than in most other series because by the time Keita shows up Kotoko and Naoki were already married, which made the possiblity of their break-up much more sad than frustrating. In all, rival love interests often bring empty tension to a series – but when used right they can provide insight into the main couple and make their bond seem not only more realistic, but stronger.
When I first started watching Cardcaptor Sakura, there were several things that immediately impressed me. I loved how spunky and brave Sakura was from the start, how interesting the battles were, and how supportive Tomoyo was. But most of all, I loved the relationship between Sakura and her brother Toya. In most magical girl series, the family of the ‘magical girl’ almost never realizes what the girl is up to or her secret identity. Over the course of Cardcaptor Sakura, however, it becomes clear that Toya is very aware of what Sakura is up to whenever she leaves their house at midnight. At first the signs that Toya realizes what Sakura is up to are subtle, and are mostly shown through his ‘staring matches’ with Kero, who has to pretend to be a plush doll whenever Toya stares at him strangely. Yet as the series progresses Toya is shown watching Sakura’s battles from afar, and he eventually admits to Sakura he knew her secret all along. Even though he’s sometimes mean to Sakura (he always teases her by calling her a monster, which ticks her off), it’s clear that Toya is very protective of Sakura. A running joke throughout the series is that Toya works everywhere – in episode three when Sakura and Yukito go to an aquarium, Toya has a job there feeding the penguins, while in episode 35 when Sakura, Yukito, Shaoron and Meilin go to the amusement park Toya is the waiter at a café they visit. Toya also really dislikes Shaoron, and when Yukito asks him why near the end of the series he says it’s because he knows Shaoran is going to take something precious away from him one day. In many ways, Toya is the ideal big brother, which is lampshaded throughout the series. At one point near the beginning of the series when Toya gets mad that Shaoran tried to attack Sakura, Yukito jokes that Toya has a sister complex.
Yet it’s clear that Toya’s kindness isn’t just directed at Sakura alone. One of my favorite episodes is episode seven, which is when the Mirror card is introduced, who takes Sakura’s form. She tricks Toya into finding something she dropped in the woods, which causes Toya to fall of a cliff. However, right after he falls, Toya tells the girl that he will still help her find what she’s looking for, even though he knows that the girl isn’t really Sakura. In episode 39, when Sakura has a fever she uses the Mirror card to pretend to be her so she can capture the Cloud card (and so Toya won’t realize she’s missing). However, Toya tells the girl that he knows she’s not Sakura and he also tells her not to tell Sakura he’s aware of her secret because he knows she wants to keep it a secret. The Mirror card and Toya meet for one last time in episode 61 when Sakura and Toya were supposed to be Christmas shopping, and Toya sweetly gives the card ribbons because he can tell her ‘true form’ has long hair. I actually loved all of the interactions between Toya and the Mirror card, not only because they show how kind Toya is but also because they bring personality to the cards themselves, which I really appreciated.
But what’s interesting is that outside of his relationship with Sakura, we don’t know a lot about Toya himself. This becomes most obvious with the introduction of Kaho Mizuki, Sakura’s teacher. It becomes clear that not only did Toya and Mizuki know each other because she taught at his junior high, but that they loved each other and were a couple until she left town. When Mizuki returns, Toya seems bothered by her presence but it is unclear why. Although it is probably because Toya was aware that Mizuki was somehow connected to Sakura’s mission as a cardcaptor (how, exactly, I won’t spoil), I always felt there was also a tinge of regret and unrequited love on Toya’s part in facing Mizuki. And yet, what makes me doubt this is the later revelation of the depth of Toya’s feelings for Yukito. In the second half of Cardcaptor Sakura, Toya always shows great concern for Yukito, and when Yukito later mentions that Toya is the most important person to him, Sakura tells him that she’s sure Toya feels the same way. While it’s not exactly surprising for CLAMP to create moments that can be romantically interpreted between two male characters, the depth of Yukito and Toya’s feelings for one another never once felt forced or contrived, and I actually ended up really liking the idea of the two of them as a couple. But what’s most important is that although I was expecting Toya to be a flat character, he ended up not only playing a much bigger role than I thought he would but he also became one of my favorite characters in the series.
When I started blogging, there were series I already knew I wanted to write about. Nana, Itazura na Kiss, even series I’m not crazy about such as The Devil Does Exist were all series I had ideas of topics that I could write about in the future. Whether I loved it or hated it, if a series made a strong impact on me I felt a strong desire to share my opinions of them. But there are times when I feel it’s better not to write anything at all. When a series doesn’t leave a lasting impression on me, I tend to have a difficult time coming up with something to write about it. Although part of me wishes to write about a series just to show I’m familiar with it, I’ve come to believe that this alone isn’t a strong enough reason to write about a series. Take Nodame Cantabile, for example. I’ve read seven volumes of this popular josei series, yet when I tred to write a review for the series I found myself coming up empty. Sure, I like Nodame – she’s a fun character and I especially like it when she tries to act ‘sexy’ for Chiaki. And the series has definitely made me laugh out loud on occassion. But after finishing a volume of the manga, I’d completely forget what had just happened. I like the series enough, but unfortunately, I felt I had nothing else to say about Nodame Cantabile, and that’s what inspired this post. Even though I originally had wanted to do a review of what I had read of the series, I felt as though I couldn’t contribute anything worthwhile to say about the series, especially when there are other bloggers out there whoalready have.
This is even true for some series that I feel are unique. I really like Prétear because I think it twists the magical-genre in clever ways, yet I didn’t have a strong urge to write about the series. It’s a much more emotional series than I expected it to be, and I love a mid-series twist invloving a certain Leafe Knight. I considered writing a review of the anime, yet my opinions of the series aligns with many others who have blogged about it, and I didn’t feel I that I could analyze the series from any unique angle. That’s not to say that I feel in order to write about a series I have to be the first or only person to hold a certain view of a series – what I’m saying is that I need to have a strong opinion in order to discuss a series. I’ve never been a big fan of reviewing series to begin with – I tend to enjoy looking closely at specific themes or characters rather than trying to capture the gist of my feelings toward a series. And when it comes to reviewing, I tend to just want to jump into writing my thoughts about the series instead of having to set the series up by summarizing its plot and characters. So I’ll extend a question to you bloggers out there: do you feel the need to write about series you didn’t have a strong reaction to? And do you enjoy writing reviews, or do you prefer to write other types of posts?
It should go as no surprise that I think Paradise Kiss is an amazing series. I’ve already praised Ai Yazawa quite a bit, but there are so many things to love about Paradise Kiss that it’s hard for me to choose what to talk about. From George and Yukari’s glamorous-yet-thorny relationship, to fun characters like Miwako and Isabella who are more than what they seem, to the wonderful clothing we all wish we could wear in real life, Paradise Kiss is so detailed it feels like it’s own world. But the strongest impression the series left on me is definitely its ending. At the end of Paradise Kiss, George decides to go to Paris to try to become a haute couture fashion designer, while Yukari stays behind in Japan because her modelling career is beginning to take off. The two part, and without either of them needing to say so, they know that their relationship as come to an end. Yet one day Yukari receives a package, with the key to George’s storage room inside it. She rushes to the storage room, finds all of the dresses George has designed, and breaks down crying. At the end of the series, we find out that Yukari has married Hiroyuki, a classmate she had feelings for prior to meeting George, and they will be attending a show with costumes designed by George. It’s a bittersweet finale; one that makes me think about the art of the happy ending.
Whether you like them or not, most people are accustomed to the happy ending. Disney films always end with the couple living happily-ever-after, while even the majority of romantic-comedies end with the couple finally getting together. Because we are used to happy endings, we’ve come to expect them and are often surprised when a film or a book ends on a down note. Then there are people who enjoy bittersweet or downright sad endings because they find them to be more realistic than happy endings. Many people who appreciate sad endings enjoy them because they aren’t as common and clichéd as the traditional happy ending. Still, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t great reasons for people to like happy endings either – they often genuinely care for the characters and want to see them happy. Many people feel media are fantasies and therefore are meant to allow the audience to escape from harsh realism, while others simply prefer traditional endings because they strongly feel that only a ‘happy’ ending can be a ‘good’ ending. I generally love happy endings myelf as well because I tend to be very emotionally invested in the characters’ lives in my favorite series. And yet, I love the finale of Paradise Kiss. It stands out from most endings not only because is it realistic (since not only do George and Yukari break up but Yukari’s modelling career is described as being only moderately successful), but it also makes me question the true meaning of the ‘happy ending.’
There are several things I appreciate about Paradise Kiss. One element I love is that the series shows that the person who influences your life the most may not be the person you spend the rest of your life with. Even though she marries Hiroyuki, in the six months Yukari was with George he gave her the courage to figure out what she wants to do with her life, and allowed her to become more open-minded. More importantly, Paradise Kiss shows that it takes more than love to make a relationship work. Yukari loves George, yet she constantly feels as though there is space between herself and him, and she is unconfident in their relationship. George never tells Yukari he loves her and always jokes about having a mistress, which makes Yukari feel as though she’s always the one who has to make the first moves in their relationship. At times, George can be very cold toward Yukari, especially when he feels she’s not making her own decisions or that her priorities are in the wrong place. For example, when Yukari doesn’t tell George about the possiblity of her getting signed to a modelling agency so the two can have sex, George gets mad at her for not putting her career first. This is quite hypocritical, since later on in the series George makes the decision to not pursue a career in designing clothes without confiding in Yukari first. And yet, when he drives away after dropping Yukari off on their last date, George has tears in his eyes. And when Yukari enters the storage room, she remembers George telling her that the clothing he has designed has too many precious memories for him to sell them, and she breaks down into tears at the sight of the dresses he’s left in her care. This was the sign both Yukari and I had been looking for to show that he really did love love her. By George and Yukari not ending up together, we can feel their love for each other even more than if they had had a traditional happily-ever-after. Thus, Paradise Kiss has one of my favorite endings of all time – not because it subverts the happy ending, but instead reinvents it.
I’ve recently been reading Red River, an award-winning 28-volume shojo series known as Anatolia Story in Japan. The manga is about a girl named Yuri Suzuki, who after receiving her first kiss gets trapped in another world, which turns out to be Anatolia during the year 1500 B.C. She was summoned by Queen Nakia in order to serve as a sacrifice so Nakia would be able to kill the eldest princes, allowing her only son to become the next emperor. However, Yuri is saved by the third prince of the Hittites, Kail Mursili, and it doesn’t take long for them to fall for each other. Yuri moves into the palace as Kail’s ‘concubine,’ and she is eventually revered as the reincarnation of the goddess Ishtar. Prior to reading the manga, I had already heard that Yuri is a strong heroine, so I came into the series with high expectations. At first, Yuri bothered me a bit because she cried a lot, but as the series progressed, I came to appreciate not only how kind Yuri is but how strong she becomes. Eventually, Yuri completely won me over and I consider her to be one of the best shojo leads out there. I’m now 17 volumes into the series, so I decided to showcase some of Yuri’s greatest moments (and please be aware that there are definitely spoilers):
In volume three, Yuri gets revenge for Tito, a young boy who helped her when she first arrived in Anatolia and was killed. She stabs Tito’s assassin and is recogonized as the goddess Ishtar. When Mitanni troops try to invade their borders, Kail must go fight. Since Yuri must still worry about Queen Nakia, who is after her life, so she decides to learn how to use a sword, bow and how to ride a horse so Kail won’t have to worry about her. Take notes, Miaka, take notes.
In volume five, Yuri is captured by Mattazawa, the prince of another nation, and is forced to live with prisoners. Mattazawa decides to grant Yuri one wish if she can defeat a lion, which is a symbol for Ishtar. After being thrown into a pit with the lion, Yuri escapes thanks to her horse. Instead of wishing for her freedom, Yuri asks the prince to improve his prisoner’s living conditions. Yuri not only shows how kind she is for thinking of others instead of herself, but also how intelligent she is: because Mattazawa had planned to send men to kill her if she had requested to return home.
In volumes seven and eight, the king of Egypt dies and the Egyptians ask for one the Hittite princes to marry their current queen. After Zannanza, Kail’s younger brother, wins a chariot race he and a group of Hiitite soldiers, along with Yuri, travel to Egypt so he can take his position. However, Queen Nakia sends spies to travel with Zannanza in order to kill him and Yuri and then blame it on the Egyptians in order to start a war. The spies succeed in killing Zannanza, but although Yuri gets shot in the back with an arrow she escapes alive. She threatens an Egyptian soldier named Ramses to take her back to Hattusa, where Kail is. Right as the Hiitites are accusing Egyptian officials of murdering their prince Yuri arrives on a horse after travelling for two days with the arrow still in her back. She refused Ramses’ offer to remove the arrow because it was made by the Hittites and looks different from an Egyptian arrow, which proved that it was a Hittite soldier who attacked them, and thus Yuri prevents war between the two nations.
In volume 12, Yuri starts giving her aides the cold shoulder when new servants begin working at the palace. One of the male servants tries to get Yuri drunk so he can squeeze information from her about the royal family, but she attacks him and pins him down instead. When her aides rush to help her, Yuri commands them to arrest the other new hired servants, who Yuri figured out were all spies because of their western accents.
In volume 16, Kail tells the royal court that he wants to marry Yuri, which would normally be out of the question because she is not royalty. However, Queen Nakia, who is still after Yuri’s life, comes up with the idea that since Kail’s army is missing a commander, if Yuri can successfully lead the entire Hittite army she can become his wife. Yuri decides to accept the position – not because she wants to marry Kail, but because she wants the best future possible for the Hittites. Thus, Yuri becomes the only female commander in the entire history of the Hittite empire.
There are many other great ways Yuri shows both how smart and tough she can be. For example, when Kail is keeping a secret from Yuri that there is a fake Ishtar in town, she threatens to kiss one of Kail’s subordinates to get the information (which works because the subordinate is afraid of Kail’s jealousy). When Yuri ends up in a sickhouse, she decides to improve its living conditions, and even though almost everyone who gets infected with the disease dies, Yuri is not afraid to touch the sickly. But one of my favorite moments has to be in volume six, after Yuri tries to escape from Mattazawa’s imprisonment but fails. When she gives up trying to escape, her aides think she’s going to wait for Prince Kail to rescue her, like a normal girl should. But Yuri tells them that she intends to find use her position to find out about her enemy, to which her aides respond (with tears in their eyes) “Can’t you just wait for your man quietly?” No, she can’t – and that’s why Yuri is awesome.
Yuri is commonly described as ‘little’ throughout the story because she’s much thinner and shorter than the average Hittite woman. But what Yuri lacks in size, she more than makes up for in strength, courage, and above all, heart.
CLAMP. Yuu Watase. Arina Tanemura. These are the most well-known shojo authors in the American market, and each of them have had several of their series licensed in the U.S. However, there are several shojo authors whose talents we’ve gotten taste of because one of their series has managed to make its way stateside yet the majority of their work is stuck in Japan. Here are my favorite prolific shojo authors who I feel don’t deserve to be one-hit wonders in America anymore.
I’m a huge fan of Itazura na Kiss, so it makes sense that I’d love to read another work by the late Kaoru Tada. Of all her other manga, Tada’s most memorable series is probably Aishite Knight, a seven volume manga about a girl named Yakko Mitamura who meets the lead singer of an aspiring rock band. I have a lot of respect for Tada’s ability to infuse her series with charming addictiveness, and I tend to like series that involve show business (Nana, Skip Beat!), so I’m definitely intrigued by this manga.
Odds of it being licensed: 10 percent. It’s an 80s shojo series, so it’s not likely to become a bestseller. The only company that was willing to take a chance on older shojo series was CMX, which went out of business a few years ago, so I’d say Aishite Knight‘s chances of coming to the U.S seem pretty slim.
I really like Skip Beat!, and I always hear praise for its author Yoshiki Nakamura, whose other works haven’t been made available in America. Aside from Skip Beat!, Nakamura’s most famous series is Tokyo Crazy Paradise, a 19-volume series which started in 1996. Tokyo Crazy Paradise isn’t exactly the type of manga I normally read – the series is about Tsukasa, a girl who was raised to be a boy and gets assigned to be the bodyguard of a mafia leader, and the story takes place in the year 2020. However, Nakamura knows how to simultaneously extract drama and craziness from unordinary situations, and the premise of a girl who comes from a family of policeman being tied to a mob boss sounds intriguing.
Odds of it being licensed: 40 percent. At 19 volumes it’s pretty long, not to mention by most fans’ standards it’s not exactly ‘contemporary.’ But since Skip Beat! seems to be selling decently in the states, I’d say Tokyo Crazy Paradise still has a fighting chance of being licensed.
Okay, so she’s technically a two-hit wonder since two of her works (Nana and Paradise Kiss) have come stateside. But still, Yazawa’s works are still largely underrepresented in the American market. And although I’d be happy to read anything from her, I’m especially interested in the eight-volume series Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai, Yazawa’s first major work. Tenshi Nanka Ja Nai sounds like a pretty straightforward shojo series: Midori Saezima falls in love at first sight with fellow student council member Akira Sudo. But I’d actually love to read Yazawa’s take on a traditional love story – I’m sure she’s got some twist in store, and even if she doesn’t, Yazawa always creates multifaceted characters who are fun to read about.
Odds of it being licensed: 60 percent. Paradise Kiss just recently got a license rescue, so maybe if it sells well Vertical will consider licensing some of Yazawa’s older works.